DSR – VA – 012: Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in a Honey Barrel
Company/Distillery: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Mash Bill: 68% Corn, 16% Rye, and 16% Malted Barley
Age Statement: No Age Statement
Proof/ABV: 124 Proof/62% ABV
Color & Viscosity: Deep auburn in color. As I tilt the whiskey in the glass, a thin beady viscous line is produced. Legs develop late but speedily glide down the sides to the belly of the tasting vessel. The overall appearance is oily in the glass.
Purchase Price: $73 with tax for a 750 ml bottle at the distillery gift shop.
Bottle Label Information:
“Independently Hand Crafted”
“Virginia Straight bourbon Whiskey Finished in a Honey Barrel”
“Honey Barrel Finished”
“Barrel 485 | Bottle 73”
“Ragged Branch is nestled in the foothills of the Ragged Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia.”
“As a farm-to-bottle distillery, we grow, harvest, and mill grain to produce our spirits on site, and feed the residual mash to our cattle. We honor our late Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell, by utilizing the recipes and distilling methods he taught us.”
“For our special barrel release in 2021, we decided to take a freshly harvested whiskey barrel and fill it with locally sourced Virginia honey. We let the honey slowly infuse into the barrel for three months. After three months, we harvested the honey from the barrel, and filled it with our Signature Bourbon.”
“Ragged Branch Honey Barrel Finished is unique because it has been finished to full maturity in new, charred American white oak and then finished to perfection in a barrel previously containing locally sourced Virginia honey.”
“Experience a true taste of the Commonwealth with Ragged Branch Honey Barrel Finished.”
“Distilled and Bottled by: Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia”
Ragged Mountain Farm, LLC
Ragged Mountain Farm LLC, located in Albemarle County, Virginia, was an idea cultivated by founder Alex Toomy and several of his friends as they sat at his farm and discussed their future plans after the 2008-2009 housing crisis. Mr. Toomy and his friends were home-builders and developers, experiencing firsthand, the fall out of the housing market. It was during one of these gatherings that someone jokingly mentioned the idea of becoming moonshiners and making whiskey. This idea took root in Toomy’s soul and he decided, along with partners Chris Sarpy and Russell Nance, to take the leap and reach out to the Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell.
Mr. Pickerell proved to be absolutely instrumental in assisting Ragged Branch as they got their feet wet in the world of whiskey. He provided Toomy with the confidence he needed to start a whiskey distillery and even assisted him in laying out a plan to bring this idea to fruition. After Pickerell’s four day visit on the farm, Toomy and partners decided that making Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey, with the help of Pickerell, was an achievable goal.
After several years of laboring to build the distillery, growing the grains (assisted by partner Kevin Engel), and awaiting their Vendome Copper and Brass Works still, Ragged Branch was ready to begin making whiskey in July 2014.
On July 7, 2014 Ragged Branch produced their first mash under the supervision of Pickerell. Four days later, the fermented mash was run through their new still and Ragged Branch made its first run of whiskey. They now run the still, just as Dave Pickerell taught them, 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, producing an average of 25 barrels per a month. Even today, Ragged Branch considers the late Mr. Pickerell to be their Master Distiller, as they have continued to run the operation just as he taught them.
Standard offerings available by Ragged Branch include: Signature Bourbon; Wheated Bourbon; Double Oaked Signature Bourbon Bottled-in-Bond; Double Oaked Wheated Bourbon; Straight Rye Whiskey; Louisiana Reserve Signature; Louisiana Reserve Wheated; Signature Bourbon Finished in Wine Barrels.
Ragged Branch Straight Virginia Bourbon Whiskey Finished in a Honey Barrel
In order to produce this special bottling of Ragged Branch Straight Virginia Bourbon Whiskey Finished in a Honey Barrel, the distillery first procured locally sourced Virginia honey. The honey was then placed into a recently vacated Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon barrel where it rested with the honey inside, for about a month. The distillery team would roll the barrel through the distillery on a regular basis to allow the honey to infuse with the entire barrel, touching all sides. After this time frame, the honey was dumped from the barrel and sold as bourbon infused honey at the distillery gift shop.
Ragged Branch took the honey barrel and took 5 year old Signature bourbon and added it to the honey barrel. The honey barrel then rested in the rickhouse for 3 months before being bottled at a barrel proof of 124. This limited edition release was made available at the distillery gift shop in April 2021.
Tasting Date/Vessel: May 23, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a distilled water ice cube.
Christian: In the bottle, this whiskey produces a sweet aroma of fresh local honey typically bought in a mason jar. A second pass allows a slight hint of chocolate fudge to sneak into the dessert-like aroma. Nosing a generous pour in a Glencairn glass, the first thing I notice is a nice balance between the honey aromatics and the bourbon, neither really overpowering the other. A gentle swirl and return to my nose, really allows the honey to move forward and is accompanied by a slight hint of freshly brewed tea. Another gentle swirl and sniff reminds me of a freshly made pastry, drizzled in warm honey butter. Most noticeable to me is the fact that this whiskey does not scream “barrel proof” in the nose. There was something about this whiskey that made me think it would be good with an ice cube, so instead of a few drops of distilled water, I decided to go with a distilled water ice cube. As the cube began to melt, the aromas of the fresh local honey really buzzed up from the glass. Raw honey, vanilla, and brown sugar all become pronounced in the pour. The whiskey becomes very honey forward now.
Mike: From the bottle, this offering from Ragged Branch is very honey forward, as one would expect from a honey finish bourbon. As I pull back, I detect notes of chocolate and caramel, very reminiscent of Rolo candy. As I nose into the whiskey poured into the glass, again it is very honey forward but this time I am detecting a more candy-like aroma, similar to Bit-O-Honey. The aromas are very rich and thick. Swirling the bourbon in the glass offers wave after wave of sweet honeysuckles that transition to biscuits drizzled in honey. A touch of ethanol can be detected, but this is to be expected when a bourbon is bottled at 124 Proof.
Christian: The mouth feel on this Ragged Branch Honey Barrel Finished is silky smooth with a viscosity reminiscent of thin honey. A bit more viscous than typical whiskey, which is expected given the honey finish. On the tip of my tongue, there is a sweetness from the raw honey that is very pronounced. The honey, however, is not over powering on the palate, much like the nose. There is a noticeable amount of traditional Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon that hits mid and back palate. Notes of fresh breakfast biscuits and Southern sweet tea are easily detected. The addition of the ice cube made the whiskey become less viscous and noticeably thinner as it began to melt. The sweetness from the honey remains in the pour, however, it also takes on a bit of a toasted or slightly caramelized honey taste. Nowhere near as sweet, but still very pleasant. Again, the Ragged Branch Signature Bourbon is not overshadowed here and sneaks through with leather and rye spice mid palate.
Mike: Upon my first sip, I immediately notice a sharp rye spice followed by the sweetness of honey. The combination blends well and reminds me of a chili pepper infused honey. As I let the whiskey sit on my tongue, the traditional bourbon flavors timidly appear mid-palate. The honey and rye spice definitely dominate, but I also detect late notes of cinnamon Red Hots.
Christian: If there is any evidence that this whiskey is offered at barrel proof, it is in the finish. The finish is long and stout. My tongue tingles considerably and a lingering warmth develops in my throat, moving down deep into my chest. At first I notice a nice dark chocolate flavor that transitions to a bitter oakiness. The finish is dry and hits with a punch of black pepper and honey roasted peanuts very late. The ice cube really allows the finish to mellow on this pour. The finish becomes short to medium in length and isn’t as stout as the barrel proof pour. This whiskey now takes on more of a honey candy in the finish. The dark chocolate is more milk chocolate in nature, with a touch of honey next to it. The bitterness from the oak is basically gone, as is the black pepper spice. A slight hint of stone fruit or red delicious apple tries to come through very late.
Mike: This honey finished offering from Ragged Branch has a medium finish. There is a tickle of heat in the back of the throat that quickly dissipates and is overcome by the rich honey flavor. As I sit and relish this pour, the essence of fluffy and soft baked pastries drizzled lightly with honey, sneaks around in the background of the palate. The best comparison for the finish of this bourbon is a fresh sopapilla, not the hard fried version–the pillowy, melt in your mouth version traditionally served with honey.
3.5/5.0 Rickhouses – “Make it Neat!”
Christian: In the past, I have tried several other distillery’s honey offerings. Most of those come off as crazy sweet and a bit manufactured in flavor. In fact, I believe many of them are considered a liqueur as opposed to finished whiskies. Well, that is not the case here and it shows in the overall flavor and aromas of the whiskey. This is a fantastically balanced honey finished whiskey. Both the local raw honey and Ragged Branch’s Signature Bourbon get a little bit of play time on the palate. Shockingly, and I don’t think you will hear me say this often, I actually prefer the drinkability of this one with the addition of the distilled ice cube. The whiskey really opens up and allows the nose, palate, and finish to develop and produce an approachable summer sipper.
They say that your surroundings, and what is going on around you, can make or break your opinion of a whiskey. At this exact moment, I am preparing to smoke a piece of salmon outside while listening to the newly released Blackberry Smoke Vinyl and sipping this fine Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in a Honey Barrel. I am smacked with the reminiscence of summers back home in Virginia! The only thing missing is a golf cart and 18 holes. This is a damn good special release by Ragged Branch! Give me a second pour, please! As an aside – the barrel aged honey is also superb–my 9 year old even enjoys it drizzled on her pancakes. It looks like I’m raising her to take over Rickhouse Ramblings some day in the future. I would give the honey aged in the bourbon barrel an easy 4 out 5 – Winnie the Pooh approved!
Rating: 3.38 Rickhouses
Mike: I realize I’m aging myself with this, but if this were an after school special, the word of the day would be, HONEY! This is a honey dominate bourbon, but it is bourbon, not a whiskey mixed with honey liqueur. I’ve never had anything like it; and overall it reminds me of the aromas when my mom mixed up a hot toddy recipe for herself or my dad when either of them had a winter cold. My mom always kept Ancient Ancient Age on hand in the 80’s and her recipe was simple–bourbon, water, and honey. I wouldn’t consider this a daily sipper, as it is very sweet, but I’m certain it would make a fantastic cocktail. All in all, I like the uniqueness of this offering from Ragged Branch. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of what Ragged Branch is doing and I’m very bullish on their products. They are a sleeper among giants in the industry.
Rating: 3.625 Rickhouses